Rex, Jets believe – again – this is their year

This is the season the New York Jets will go to the Super Bowl.

Rex Ryan guarantees it.

And, not only that. The bold, brash coach insists the franchise

will celebrate its first Lombardi Trophy since the days of Broadway

Joe.

Heard it all before? Ryan doesn’t care. This is what he

believes, and he’s not changing his mind.

”I’ll stand by what I always say,” Ryan said.

That means he thinks that after two straight losing trips to the

AFC championship game, the Jets will take the next step and win it

all.

”They say the third time is a charm, so hopefully,” tight end

Dustin Keller said. ”We feel very strongly that we can do that. As

Rex said, we are going to win the Super Bowl and we have all the

ability in the world to do it. It’s just a matter of getting over

that hump, winning that game and hopefully winning a Super Bowl for

the second time. We definitely have the ability to do that.”

Getting to the AFC championship twice in a row isn’t easy, and

being there three straight seasons is a rarity. The Buffalo Bills

were the last to do it, when they won four straight conference

titles from 1990-93 and lost in the Super Bowl each of those

seasons. The Jets also won’t want to join the 1973-75 Oakland

Raiders, the only team to lose three straight AFC title games.

Super Bowl or bust? Yep, pretty much.

”What’s next for us?” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said.

”It has to be winning the championship.”

A lot of that responsibility will fall on quarterback Mark

Sanchez, who needs to be even better than he has in his first two

seasons. And, Sanchez knows it.

”My improvement determines any kind of ceiling this team could

have, and our potential,” he said. ”We have all of the potential

in the world, and now it’s time to realize that, for me to step up

my game.”

He’ll have to also quickly develop a rapport with his new group

of receivers. While Santonio Holmes is back as Sanchez’s go-to guy

after the Jets made him their top offseason priority, Braylon

Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith are gone. Replacing them

are Plaxico Burress, who hasn’t played in a regular-season NFL game

in nearly three years after serving a 20-month prison sentence, and

Derrick Mason, a 37-year-old veteran who desperately wants to cap a

terrific career with a ring.

Both Burress and Mason have dealt with injuries during training

camp that caused them to miss preseason games, but their experience

and talent have them confident they will have big impacts on the

offense.

”I think that we all know that it takes more than just one guy

to go out and to be a championship-caliber football team,” Burress

said. ”We’re all great fits. We all specialize in one skill or

another. As far as from a receiving standpoint, we pretty much have

three guys that can do it all.”

Burress gives Sanchez a tall red-zone threat who can outreach

just about every defensive back in the league, replacing what

Edwards’ role was. Despite the long layoff after going to jail on a

gun charge, Burress has shown signs of being the receiver who was

once regarded among the league’s best.

”It’s just football,” Burress said. ”You run around, catching

the football, understanding your job, understanding the concepts of

defense and offense and running to daylight, trying to get open.

There’s nothing too hard about it.”

Even with three big-name receivers, Ryan said the offensive

philosophy will be the same as it always has been:

ground-and-pound. Shonn Greene will assume the role as the featured

running back while Tomlinson will be more of a pass-catching

third-down back.

Ryan’s bread and butter will always be his defense, and he

sarcastically apologized for his unit being ranked only third in

the league last year. He thinks they’ll be even better this season,

and having a nearly intact secondary is a major reason.

After losing out on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency,

the Jets turned back to Antonio Cromartie and re-signed him to team

with Darrelle Revis, who’s coming off another outstanding season.

New York also re-signed safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool, and

Jim Leonhard is fully recovered from a broken leg that sidelined

him late last season.

”You know what we’re going to do,” Cromartie said. ”We’re

going to play man-to-man on the outside and we’re going to go out

and smash you in the mouth.”

A big key will be putting more pressure on quarterbacks,

something the Jets didn’t do consistently enough last season. While

they didn’t re-sign Shaun Ellis, they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson

and Kenrick Ellis with their first two picks in April to give their

defensive line a boost.

”We have a certain standard that we expect and we’re going to

work to getting that,” Ryan said. ”Obviously, there are a lot of

good defenses out there, but we want to be the best.”

That’s the theme this year – again. Finishing second to anybody

in anything on the field just won’t cut it.

”We’ve been wiping our feet at the doormat to walk into the

Super Bowl,” Holmes said. ”Why can’t we do it again this year?

Why can’t we do it again three more years? Why can’t we do it again

in five years? I’m pretty sure coach has brought it to everybody’s

attention around here that that’s what we’re going to be about this

year.”